The Bay (2012)
Company: Automatik Entertainment
Runtime: 84 mins
Plot: On July 4, 2009 a deadly menace swept through the quaint seaside town of Claridge, Maryland, but the harrowing story of what happened that Independence Day has never been told - until now. The authorities believed they had buried the truth about the tragedy, but a reporter has emerged with footage revealing the cover-up and an unimaginable killer: a mysterious parasitic outbreak. Told from the perspective of those who were there and saw what happened, The Bay unfolds over 24 hours though people's iPhones, Androids, 911 calls, webcams, and whatever else could be used to document the nightmare in Claridge.
Review: I love found-footage horror movies, so I try to watch any and all new ones when they come out, but The Bay specifically I had been anticipating pretty heavily after hearing some excellent word of mouth on it out of last year's TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival). While it took me a bit longer to get around to it then I would have liked, luckily I was able to catch it recently on DVD, and suffice to say 80-odd minutes later I found myself thinking twice about going for that next glass of water...
In The Bay, an entire small island town during a 4th of July celebration weekend gets infected via the drinking water by small parasitic creatures that eat you from the inside out, mutated to a larger size due to the Government-tampered water supply, and we watch as the fun-loving celebrations slowly descend into panic and utter chaos.
What struck me almost right away here as a pretty ingenuous twist on the overdone found footage genre, was that it actually wasn't so much a found footage movie in the traditional sense as it was a fictional documentary that incorporated found footage elements within it. It has a survivor of the events, after the fact, going back and making a documentary on the events that befell this small coastal town, since the Government and mainstream media have been failing to report on it, and she's making this documentary from edited-together footage of this event from all sorts of different sources – home video cameras, security footage, police car cameras, news broadcasts, recorded phone conversations, webcam chats, 911 calls - just dozens upon dozens of different sources, most of which are professional and thus that means very little shakey-cam stuff for those of you who get headaches or motion sickness from that sort of thing.
Because of this approach, with footage from various multiple sources, both of the event itself as well as small signs leading up to it that hint at something not quite being right, the movie ended up being very creepy (even more so then most other found footage movies that are only from the POV of a single camera) because you start getting a sense of dread even before the characters realize anything is happening. You're given an uneasy suspenseful feeling right from the get go, and while the majority of the movie is a bit of a slow burn, it uses that time very well to slowly, but steadily, increase that feeling of unease and confusion. The movie, and by extension it's creepy factor, is helped along even more-so by the fact that the mutant parasitic creatures that are the cause of everything here – the Isopods – are actual real-life creatures that actually can get quite large in rare cases (seriously, Google Pictures that shit). Even though the movie itself is fictional, the horrific events depicted in it could very easily actually happen, making everything within all the more spine-tingling.
The biggest drawback that keeps you from getting fully invested however, is that aside from the reporter that's narrating the movie, there's not really any main characters to latch onto as everyone else is mostly just background people in various footage, but none really get any significant screen time. Hell, even the reporter lady herself wasn't in a whole lot of the actual 'found footage' stuff, and was completely absent from the final 20 minutes or so.
To be honest, I actually could have done with less of her present-day webcam chats with her boss, as well as her constant narration of everything happening on-screen, because that stuff sort of removed some of the tension by A, breaking it up and cutting in to take us out of what's happening in some otherwise really intense and creepy scenes, and B, outright spoiling things that were to come later on that would have been more of a surprise and more shocking had we not been expecting them. I would have preferred her to have a much stronger presence in the 2009-set footage and just cut out more, if not all, of her present-day webcam chat stuff.
I also wasn't a fan of the fact that there's no real climax to the movie - The movie builds the tension really well, culminating in a very creepy sequence where a family arrives to the town late in the evening only to find it empty of celebrations and dead bodies strewn all over the streets and no idea as to what's going on, but in terms of story structure it doesn't build up to anything at all and it kind of just...ends... and it leaves you feeling like the movie was over before it had even reached the final act.
Those few things aside though, The Bay is a highly enjoyable and quite creepy found footage movie, that acts as a bit of a refresher to an otherwise stale subgenre. This is one that I look forward to re-watching every once in awhile in the future, although it certainly will make you quite paranoid about ever drinking tap water again...